Another Try at Legalizing it

23:40 Thu 25 Mar 2010
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In November, a ballot measure that would legalize[1] growth and possession of up to an ounce of marijuana will be put before California voters. I’d love to see this pass for a bunch of reasons—none of which affect me personally.

Consistency is one of them: it’s pretty clear that marijuana use is just not more dangerous than tobacco or alcohol use, and hence it’s clearly unjust for it to be singled out.

I’m not a fan of meddling in individual behavior (obviously), and this seems like a pretty clear example of doing just that. I can’t see the public health[2] justification for this kind of meddling, which would have to be extremely stark.

There’s also the issue that a really significant portion of the population breaks the current prohibition law anyway. The first issue here is that if a really significant portion of the population is breaking a law despite extremely significant enforcement efforts, then that law is rather clearly problematic. That’s not to say it should automatically be given up on, but it should be examined carefully—and the law against marijuana doesn’t pass such an examination. The second issue is that if lawbreaking of this kind is widespread, then it leads to selective enforcement, which is inherently corrupting.

I would really love to see this pass because it would at least then shift the burden to the other side in the debate, the side favoring prohibition, and the burden of proof should always be on the side seeking to use state power to control individual behavior. However, given that California passed a measure banning gay marriage last year, I’m not that optimistic. Yes, the issues are very different, but I suspect that a lot of the voters will break the same way they did on that measure. Maybe things will be different this time because the Mormons won’t get involved, as this time they won’t feel a compulsion to meddle in the marriage practices of another state.

[1] In California, under California state law; it would still be illegal federally, and those in possession would be breaking federal law.

[2] The notion that a government that just explicitly rejected the concept of providing public health coverage for the nation would have any kind of moral standing in turning around and saying that it had to use state power to prohibit marijuana for the good of the health of the nation is just ludicrous.

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